The social GP

A collaborative approach to troubled families in the Netherlands shows that local leadership can come from many levels, as Bas Denters, Pieter-Jan Klok and Mirjan Oude Vrielink explain

The city of Enschede, situated on the eastern border of the Netherlands, and three local housing associations have initiated a fresh approach to tackling problems of multiple deprivation. Known as the Social GP Programme or neighbourhood coach programme, it represents, in the Dutch context at least, a new model.

In both the Netherlands and the UK, GPs are often the ?rst point of contact for a patient requiring advice and assistance relating to their health. In simple terms, they draw on a wide general knowledge, and a variety of health service providers, to meet the needs of the patient. The idea behind the Social GP model is much the same.

Social GPs act as individual counsellors to people facing multiple or complex problems. Like their British counterparts, Dutch central and local government have been concerned about multiple deprivation for more than 20 years. In the Netherlands, as elsewhere, policies aimed at improving the life chances of households experiencing multiple problems face three major challenges:

  • Many are served (or feel ‘raided’) by a small army of social professionals employed by numerous social and medical care organisations – an integrated approach is lacking
  • A minority of these households slip through the net and do not receive support at a point when emerging problems are in their early stages and preventive action could avert future crisis
  • The care provided by professionals can be highly paternalistic and tends to make clients dependant on professional support rather than empowering them to take decisions about their lives into their own hands.

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